Jeremy Lin is a Champion: Minutes don’t Matter

Asian Christianity, Race Matters: Candid Conversations on Race & Culture0 comments

When the Toronto Raptors won its first NBA Basketball Championship on June 13th, the nation of Canada exploded in celebration.  One player, Jeremy Lin, a Taiwanese-American was also on the roster.  While his contribution on the court and playing time was minimal, he too celebrated as a member of the Raptors.

When media outlets point out he made history as the first Asian-American NBA Champion, many critics scoffed.  They cited, he only played 27 minutes throughout the entire playoffs, with all the minutes meaningless to the outcome.  

So the question gets raised, “Does Jeremy Lin deserve to call himself a champion?”  Of course, he does.  He won.  He was on the roster.  He practiced with the team.  He was part of the process.  Why can’t he and we celebrate that?  

As an Asian-American psychotherapist, diversity speaker and trainer, I can tell you no one is upset he’s part of a winning team.  What they’re upset about is the media exposure he’s getting which typically follows big name stars and players that led to the win.  

But think of all the major sports teams where each player on a winning championship team in each of their respective fields will get a ring or trophy. In the NFL, regardless of whether they’re Tom Brady, his back-up quarterback(s), every player on the 53 man roster will get rings for winning the Super Bowl. But out of those 53 players, only a few play “meaningful minutes” with 7 of those players deemed inactive (ineligible) to play on game days.  

Nevertheless, if your team wins a Super Bowl, you’re also getting a Super Bowl ring.  Is that fair to the starters?  Does it mean the benchwarmers don’t deserve a ring or deserve to call themselves a “Super Bowl winner”?!  In fact, if you google motivational speakers, you’ll find a number of former “Superbowl Champions” turned public speakers with the majority of them not a household name.  

For an NBA comparison, are you familiar with  Lance Allred?  I seriously doubt it, unless you’re a basketball junkie, deaf, or a part of a deaf, basketball community.  You see, Allred played less than three months in the NBA after joining the Cleveland Cavaliers in March of 2008.  During that span, he averaged just 3.3 minutes per game.  Some would call this a footnote, if that.  Some would declare his title as a former “NBA player” a bit of a stretch.  But not to the deaf community.  He is seen as a role model and someone to aspire towards because as insignificant as his on-court contribution was in the NBA, his mere accomplishment of making it to the top, albeit ever so brief marked Allred as the first legally-deaf player in NBA history.  He parlayed that accomplishment and is now an inspirational speaker and author.

With his achievement, should we knock Allred and clamor he didn’t “accomplish” anything?  Ask the deaf community and they will resoundingly tell you otherwise.  Ask the young men and women he speaks to if his words matter less because of his lack of playing time.  

As for Jeremy Lin, he should also be congratulated.  Not only for being a part of a winning organization and being seen as a role model to others of what’s possible (i.e. Asian-Americans reaching the highest level not only in basketball but in any field you aspire towards) but for his perseverance and his talent.  Lin is considered an “NBA journeyman” having played for eight different NBA teams in nearly ten years. But let that sink in.  He’s been in the league since 2010.  So he’s persevered for a long duration of time in a league that spits hundreds of players out of the league who can’t get more than a 10 day contract.

The tragedy is some of his biggest critics today are other ethnic minorities.  They ironically fail to recognize why race matters and are contemptuous that Lin has gotten so much exposure compared to other “average” players.  This is probably analogous to male, white critics who wonder out-loud why every time a “First Black, first female, first hispanic, (fill in the prestigious title here)” has to get so much attention.  

The reason it’s celebrated is because someone is the first of their kind to do something significant.  While others may have reached the same pinnacle, to be the first to do anything in your sphere of influence (e.g. the first in your family to graduate from college, the first to immigrate to a different country, the first to marry someone of a different race, etc.) marks a tremendous achievement only those in your circle (i.e. community, ethnicity, gender, religion, etc.) can truly appreciate.  Those communities recognize how these achievers have fought off thousands of negative comments and naysayers.  Not only that, they also recognize their role models have had to also fight off their own internal demons that tell them they can’t do what they set out to accomplish.  So to sum it up, these valiant and courageous people are more than their titles, they have achieved beyond measure.  And for those who’s accomplishments are in the public spotlight like Lance Allred or Jeremy Lin, it’s their unyielding mindset to never give up and be a beacon of light to other like-minded individuals that truly makes them champions.   

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